Resource Development
YOUR NEW
COMPETITIVE EDGE

by Bette Price

   Sure, you've heard it said, "People are our greatest asset." But, how often do actions speak louder than words to belie this message? Well, this is the year to mean it when you say it because according to Department of Labor statistics, not only will people be your greatest asset-recruiting and retaining the best people will be your competitive edge.
   Managers can no longer assume that their available pool of talent is plentiful nor assume that because the current job market is tight that their best people will be loyal to them. Research from various entities confirms that a high percentage of employees are ready to leap as soon as the job market expands. And, while the current job market indicates that there is a plethora of highly skilled talent who are among the unemployed and underemployed, the reality is that American business is entering the greatest labor crisis in decades when it comes to highly educated and skilled employees. Those who fail to recognize tomorrow's problems today will find themselves unable to attract and keep the best talent to accomplish their growth goals. Here's why:

  • American jobs requiring college degrees are projected to increase by 20 million over the next nine years. Of this number, 12.4 million will be new jobs requiring baccalaureate or advanced degrees; 7.5 million requiring two-year degree programs.
  • At the average annual college and university graduation rates experts predict that the available new college degree holders will drop 6 million-a 33 percent shortfall of what the job market needs.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations requiring an associates degree or higher will account for 40 percent of the job growth by the year 2010, up from 25 percent in 1998.
  • Beginning in year 2000 through 2010, people aged 55 to 64 show the most significant growth while people age 35 ­ 44 is projected to decline by 5.1 million, thus the labor force of those 55 and older will grow faster than the young educated labor force.
  • Despite their best efforts, most companies continue to squander what may be their greatest assets in today's knowledge economy-the wealth of expertise, ideas, and latent insights that lie scattered across or deeply embedded inside their organizations-their senior, seasoned talent.
  • There is no organizational learning without organizational memory, according to The Living Corporation author, Arita Goish, who has researched learning in organizations that have existed for more than 100 years. That valuable "memory" has been leaving most companies in the form of downsizing and early retirement since the 1980's.

   The above facts and statistics only begin to foretell of the growth issues facing companies as they prepare to move into an ever-increasingly competitive business environment. As a result, today's mangers face three critical issues:

A loss of valuable historical decision-making

   As senior, experienced people leave the organization, so goes an incredible amount of the company's success-making history. Without the wisdom of these individuals there is a danger of reinventing the wheel, making decisions without valuable historical insights and repeating mistakes that waste valuable time and money and could easily have been avoided has wise insights been shared. The results-loss of time and valuable resources which negatively impact the bottom line and makes the organization highly vulnerable to competition.

Competition for the best talent

   Without recognizing the pending labor shortage some organizations will get lost in the dust when it comes to recruiting the most qualified, productive talent because the best talent will have been scooped up by their competition.

Retaining the best of the best

   With a current labor market feeling burned out and unappreciated, managers who have failed to demonstrate value to their most loyal and productive employees, will likely loose them to competition. A Gallop poll found that 31% of employees who did not feel included or appreciated would stay with the company anyway. But, the question to ask is­why? And, are these the kind of employees you want and need to build your future?
   Here are Five Fundamental Factors to consider for helping you to avoid these pending pitfalls and maintain a competitive edge:

Identify your high performers NOW and reward their potential

   Rewards don't always have to be money. Feeling valued fulfills one's very basic needs, yet when is the last time you took time as a manager to convey a genuine gesture of appreciation to an employee who always goes the extra mile. During a recent speech I asked an audience of nearly 200 managers how many of them in the past year had received a hand-written note from their superior for a job well done. Three hands were all that rose. One woman openly shared that she saved that note and reads it on the tough days. Little things do mean a lot, but few take time for the little things.

Preserve historical success while developing your future leaders

   This addresses the loss of knowledgeable, experienced employees with wisdom. I call the process GenBlending™. GenBlending is the process of blending generational insights. It's beyond mentoring because it places at equal value the knowledge, talent and insights of both young, future leader talent with that of more experienced, senior talent. It provides a planned environment in which shared knowledge speeds the curve, provides better answers, recognizes the wisdoms of the experienced and fosters the loyalty and growth of young. Recently I had the opportunity to put together a GenBlending Team for a major financial corporation to plan the entire organization's 2004 objectives. The CEO found the results to be beyond the wildest dreams. It was an incredibly successful venture which also served as an important recognition to young blenders on the team.

Identify Key Competencies

   Take time to analyze the specific competencies in your top performers so that in making future hiring decisions, these competencies become critical in the decision process. We've been using an incredible tool called the Attribute Index to benchmark current success so that it can be duplicated in the future. Each position generally has no more than five or six critical competencies to ensure maximum success. In a complex world with complex competitive issues, this kind of testing is becoming more and more critical in helping to ensure that the right people are in the right spots.

Develop a True Leader managing style

   An employee's performance can move 30 percent positive or negative based on the environment. Guess who determines that environment! You--the manager, the leader. True leaders genuinely care about people as well as profits and they make sure that their employees know that by genuinely demonstrating it. If the CEOs of some of the largest, most long-term successful companies can behave in this manner, so can you.

Hire for diverse behaviors, but aligned values

   I found it when I did research for my True Leaders book and Peter Drucker said it long before that. Drucker wrote: "To work in an organization whose value system is unacceptable or incompatible with one's own condemns a person both to frustration and to non-performance." Or, as Jim Nicholson, CEO of PVS Chemicals told me, "The speed of the pack is the speed of the leader. It works in motorcycle gangs and it works in business." Behaviorally, people go about getting their jobs done in a variety of styles and that's just fine as long as they're committed, motivated and demonstrate that they're your top performers. But, if there's a clash in values between you and your employees, you'll never see the best of their best.
   Don't be misguided by today's seemingly large pool of available talent. If you do, you can be assured your competition won't. Those managers that plan now to recruit and retain the best of the best will be those who lead the pack in their field because without a doubt, your new competitive advantage will definitely be your people.